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SUMMER SOLUTION - Backyard camping trip!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Summertime is a nice time to go camping, and a great way to occupy the kids, but what do you do if you just don't have the time to get away? How do you provide this experience for your kids without travelling to the nearest national park? 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Camp in your backyard! For most children, a backyard camping trip is an experience they will enjoy and it can all happen under the watchful eye of an adult and in the safety of home. No bears to worry about, and indoor plumbing makes this an easy summer solution for you!

Q: What if I don't have a backyard?  Not everyone has green space available behind their home. In such a case, family or friends might be willing to provide the "campsite" and possibly the supervision. All it takes is a little networking. 

What you need: 
A tent
Appropriate clothing (for warm or cold weather)
Sleeping bags and blankets
A BBQ grill or place to safely build a fire
An ice chest with ice to hold food and drinks
A flashlight
A journal with a pen or pencil for taking notes
A local nature guide if available
A guide to the stars if they are visible from your home
A pair of binoculars

While you can start anytime, the morning is best. It's cool outside and the first part, pitching the tent is a bit of work. Before embarking however, make sure the weather is fair for camping. Summertime can bring dangerous weather to some places, so ensure that you'll have a day of safe weather before putting down stakes. 

Based on what you have, your experience with outdoor shelter will vary. If you do not have a tent, you may improvise with a canvas tarp or even large quilts. Sometimes, part of the improvisation process is part of the fun. Supervise everything, but as much as possible, let kids solve their own problems. 

Once settled down, kids can start exploring. Based on what nature is nearby, they can "hike" through the neighborhood to a nearby park, or they may simply observe nature from their backyard. Let them use binoculars to view local wildlife. Have them record what they see and learn in their journals just like a naturalist would. This is a good time for them to learn the names of different species of flora and fauna and to learn about natural behavior. 

Make sure kids stay hydrated throughout their trip. 

For lunch, prepare simple sandwiches or another cold meal. Nothing fancy. If possible, let the kids work this out themselves too. All these activities teach a life skill they will need later in life. 

In the afternoon, kids can play outdoors, nap, or go for another hike. Reading a book in the shade is also a worthwhile activity, especially if the book involves nature, camping, or some other relevant topic. 

In the early evening, it's time to prepare supper. Hot dogs will do, although any warm meal cooked on a fire is ideal. For this, an adult should be present at all times to ensure safety. 

After dinner, kids can spend time telling stories to one another that they either know or make up. This is a good time for adults to share old stories they know. Talk about interesting ancestors, or topics related to nature. Help your kids to bond with the natural world by increasing their understanding of it. 

After some time swapping stories around the fire, it's time to make dessert! And what else would you make if not s'mores (short for "some more")? These tasty treats are simple to prepare. You will need:

Ghram crackers
Chocolate (Hershey bars are commonly used)
Marshmallows

Break the crackers in half to form two squares, these will be the "bread" of the s'more. Place a piece of chocolate on the bottom cracker. Heat the marshmallow in the fire until it is warmed to taste. Place the marshmallow (without touching it, it will be hot!) between the crackers. The hot marshmallow will melt the chocolate while the crackers will keep your fingers from getting sticky. Enjoy! 1-2 per kid is plenty and will make a nice dessert for everyone. 

After dessert, stargaze for a bit. A red flashlight will help keep eyes adjusted while looking at the constellations on paper, then in the sky. A red flashlight can be improvised using red cellophane, if available. 

If possible, arrange the sleeping bags where kids can watch the stars as they drift to sleep. Count shooting stars, if any appear, and remember to make wishes. 

If nature calls during the night, a flushing toilet is but a few steps away. 

In the morning, a breakfast of cold cereal is typical. Kids may enjoy a second day of camping if you feel up to it as a parent, or it can be time to return home. Make sure kids learn responsibility by folding their tent and cleaning their campsite as thoroughly as possible. Take only memories, leave only footprints is the rule! 

A warm shower should conclude the transition back to the civilized world, and they're home again.
 
Happy camping!

 

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